Small Acts

Today I posted on Facebook that I had a bit of an existential crisis this morning. Or at least in part. It’d been building up for a while now. Those who know me or who’ve followed me on social media for a couple of years know the issue of youth homelessness—especially LGBTQ youth—is near and dear to my heart. It’s why I asked my publisher, Less Than Three Press, to help me organize the Project Fierce anthology, which was a collection of stories about homeless LGBTQ youth meant to raise money for the charity, Project Fierce Chicago.

I regularly donate to Project Fierce and another Chicago-area homeless charity, The Night Ministry. They’re LGBTQ friendly and in addition to their other shelters, they even have a dedicated overnight shelter for LGBTQ youth called The Crib. I was looking at their website the other day, searching for volunteer opportunities or what their clients might need most. I wanted to do something that felt more immediate and tangible than donating cash. I printed out some of their paperwork to look it over.

Then today I started thinking about them again. I looked at the paperwork, and for a moment I felt so overwhelmed. Like, what can I do? I might be able to donate a few things, but these people need real help. In the shower I got sad. I felt useless and just…small. Inconsequential. But then I bucked up and told myself, “It doesn’t matter. Do something. You’ll feel better.”

So I went to the store and spent a couple of hundred dollars on their wish list items. I came home and put together a dozen hygiene kits containing shampoo, conditioner, soap, a wash cloth, and other toiletries. I bought some diapers, wipes, socks, and six big bags of trail mix so I could separate them into a couple dozen 1-cup bags as they requested.


I’ll be driving to The Night Ministry’s admin office to drop all this off tomorrow morning. I know some of you might be thinking, “If you wanted to donate to The Night Ministry, why didn’t you just do it quietly? Get over yourself.” And if you’re thinking it, there’s not much I can say to make you think differently, but for the record, I’m not sharing this to brag about how special and generous I am. No. I’m sharing this in the hope that someone else out there might see it be inspired to do the same. Because I realized something this morning: small things matter. Sure, I might wish I had a few million to spare so I could build some shelters and keep them stocked with essentials at all times. But just because you can’t do something huge doesn’t mean what you can contribute doesn’t have value. Sometimes the tiniest act of kindness can have a tremendous impact.

So if you have a local shelter you regularly contribute to, and you’re able, consider dropping off a box of the supplies they need most. I know how it feels to be bogged down by thoughts of “I can only afford to give so much. Will it even make a difference?” Yes, it will. To the person who has supplies to shower tomorrow because of your donation, it matters. To the person whose stomach is growling, that trail mix might not ease it much, but it helps. It’s something.

We can’t all do big things. We don’t all have the means. But small acts matter. It was a lesson I needed to learn.

ETA: Dropped off the donation today (May 15). 🙂 



About Piper Vaughn

Piper Vaughn wrote her first love story at eleven and never looked back. Since then, she’s known that writing in some form was exactly what she wanted to do. A reader at the core, Piper loves nothing more than getting lost in a great book—fantasy, young adult, romance, sci-fi, she loves them all! As a bisexual and Latinx person, Piper takes great pride in her heritage. She grew up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood and strives to put faces and characters of every ethnicity in her stories, so her fictional worlds are as colorful as the real one. Above all, she believes that everyone needs a little true love in their life … even if it’s only in a book.

Posted on May 14, 2015, in charity, donations, glbtq, personal, piper vaughn and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I did something very similar with a local homeless shelter just last weekend. Sometimes you realize even when you can’t help yourself or fix all of your own immediate “woes” whatever they may be, you can still help others.

  2. I read recently that one thing shelters need desperately but no one thinks about is feminine hygiene products. If my current novel gets picked up, I’m going to spend part of my advance and do this as well. Thanks for the blog, Piper!

    • I didn’t think of that this time around. Next time! Feminine hygiene products and I heard socks are really high in demand too. I’ll have to do another box when I get my next round of royalties.

  3. Well said! Some problems are so big they are just overwhelming – look at what’s happening in Nepal. But with enough “small” steps, big things can be accomplished. Even a small contribution is a step in the right direction. Every journey starts with a single step and that’s true here too.

  4. It makes sense that you felt moved to do the actual purchasing as well as dividing things up. You gave your time and your love as you worked. Think how much time you saved other volunteers. You added immeasurable value to your donation. Then using social media you planted the idea out in the community, influencing like-minded people to take action.

    This made me think of a Mother Teresa quote, which caused me to search to get the words right which resulted in me finding a quotes list bursting with appropos words.

    Here’s one quote: “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”

    Here’s the one I thought of originally: “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

    And this is what you did, you took a donation within your means and added something that made it more. When you look at how much need is out yhere, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, but remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Do your part and trust that others will do theirs.

    (The awesome list of quotes is on Good Reads.)

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